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Becoming Billie Holiday

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  359 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora's journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possess ...more
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by WordSong
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Jan 14, 2015 added it
Shelves: january, february
This book is a collection of over 100 wonderful poems. Eleanora Fagan better known as Billie Holiday, had a very tough life. Carole Boston Weatherford catches a lot of the little details and aspects of Billie Holiday's life and is able to put them into a series of amusing poems.

I first picked up this book because I was looking for a poem for a poetry assignment.

I finished reading this book because after I had found the poem I was looking for, I read more of Weatherford's poems. I got hooked on
Read this striking collection of poetry while listening to a Billie Holiday record, preferably something from her earlier years. I chose The Quintessential Billie Holiday Columbia Jazz Compilation 1933-1935 (Vol 1) on vinyl.

Electrifying, my friends. Electrifying

(So ends the shortest review I've ever written.)
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Publisher and Date: Wordsong, 2008

Summary: This is a collection of over 100 poems written about Eleanor, other wise known as Billie Holiday. Almost all the poems Weatherford wrote in this book are titled with titles from songs Billie Holiday wrote and sang. Although Billie Holiday is known as one of the greatest jazz singers, these poems brutally describe the hardships of molestation, poverty, and hard work that brought her to not only the spotlight but to become
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is told in verse and also has illustrations throughout it, but the way the story is told is so captivating that I couldn't stop reading!
This follows a African-American young girl who grows up in a difficult situation: her mother got pregnant really young and couldn't take care of he. Her pregnancy was shameful on the family, so there was no one to take care of "Billie" when she was a baby. She went from family to family, and ended up getting herself in a lot of tro
Linda Lipko
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Found in the young adult section of the library, as I was reading this book, I felt the cover should have notations that the some of the subject matter contained adult content.

No doubt about it, the life of Eleanora Fagan was exceedingly difficult. Finding her voice and learning to accept the praise took her on a journey with joys and sorrows. Discarding her birth name given by her unwedded mother, she took the last name of her father, also a musician, and became Billie Holiday, who was most lik
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Julie M. Prince for

Billie Holiday does not have a happy life story. After all, she sang the blues for a reason. A biography written in verse seems only appropriate for a woman who lived her life in song -- whose only reliable escape was via music.

Weatherford uses Holiday songs as poem titles throughout the book, which, in addition to the first person perspective, serves to bring the reader close to the narrative. While the story of Holiday's life is disturbing, Weat
Ashley Green
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libs-642
Billie Holiday's life is chronicled by Carole Boston Weatherford's poetry in this collection. We learn about Eleanora Fagan's parents and early life, and follow her through her turbulent teen years, moving from Baltimore to Philly to the place where she felt drawn - Harlem and finally became Billie Holiday. A creation all her own, these heartfelt poems convey a sense of rebellion, independence, and longing - all of which we hear through Holiday's songs. Tackling hard issues head on - like a sexu ...more
Ch_beth Rice
Jan 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Becoming Billie Holiday takes readers on the journey of Eleanora Fagan as she transformed from a troubled youth into jazz musician Billie Holiday. Carole Boston Weatherford beautifully tells the singer’s fictional memoir through free verse poems. Weatherford’s words are beautifully enhanced with the dramatic art of Floyd Cooper. I recommend using this book with older students as it describes events in Eleanora’s life from rape and reform school to racial segregation. The story will lead to deep ...more
Lindsey Bangert
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: verse, juvenile
A good biography, notable for not shying away from the adult situations in Billie ' life, including rape, prostitution, and arrest, all by age 14. The verse makes it easy to read and the focus on her early life makes it fast paced. It might make a good companion to Navigating Early for readers looking to know more about the singer, who is mentioned repeatedly. Unfortunately, though good quality, the muted colors of the pictures may not appeal much to young readers, though they do match the often ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was about Billie Holiday, and how she grew up. It talks about her whole life all the way up until her death, and there are a lot of details. This book gave me so much information about Billie Holiday, and it shows me how great of a person she was. It even shows the struggles that she went through when her father left her with her mother when she was a child. She says "How could you pack your banjo and big-band wishes and run to New York, leaving Mom to care for me as best she could alo ...more
Mary Cummings
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen-lit
Defined in the afterword as a "fictional verse memoir [] first person poems titled after her songs," Becoming Billie Holiday is a beautiful book of poetry that collectively tells of Holiday's tragic young life. The text ends a little abruptly, and I wish it gone further into her life into adulthood. Side note - Best read with Billie's tracks playing in the background. ;)
Suzanne Dix
What a tragic yet talented woman Billie Holiday was! This short, free verse biography is beautifully written and doesn't shy away from all the grit and grime in Billie's young life: rape, working in a brothel, abandonment by her father, transient living...Talk about rising up!

Grades 8 and up.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
Outstanding poems and beautiful illustrations.
Karyn Buchanan
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The poetry comes off the page as the reader travels back in time to meet “Lady Day.” Her life was a song that had to be sung, and her strength, talent, and journey are awe-inspiring.
Charlene Doland
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely biography in verse.
Aaron Wertlieb
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Did not know it was a juvenile book. It was good and if I were younger in high and looking for a book about jazz singers this was fine. Laid out in an interesting way
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Early life and career of the singer set in verse inspired by and titled by the songs she sang.
Sena Ntumy
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
The story is very good, you can picture Holiday's life easily. But it reads more like a story, rather than a poem, in my opinion. Would recommend regardless, though.
Book Buying With Katie
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely biography in verse.
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Inspired by spending too much time with this book.
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
She begins her journey as Eleanora Fagin. Born into poverty to a single mother in 1915 Philadelphia, disregarded by her father, and raised by a myriad of Baltimore relatives, Eleanora overcomes staggering obstacles to become the incomparable Billie Holiday. Weatherford recounts this biography in verse and presents a revealing account of a young girl, who suffers rape, reform school, prostitution, and jail all before her fifteenth birthday. The poems are told in first-person, using the names of B ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I find it interesting that all of the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books are poetry, a genre that some students find difficult, but also a genre that can express strong feelings in a few well-chosen words.
In Becoming Billie Holiday, author Carol Boston Weatherford explains in her author note, 'the young woman who speaks through these poems is Billie Holiday, before heroin and hard living took their toll.' This fictional memoir begins with Billie, or rather, Eleanora's birth in 1915 and ends
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Some of the poems in this verse biography are stunning, many simply tell the story in first person. It's fictionalized, but in a way everything about Lady Day is fictionalized, and this is just one of the books that admits it. Poems are titled after songs & include lots of references to other names in jazz, swing, film, and stage. The author included bios of these other figures in the back, as well as a bit of biographical info on Billie's later life. Illustrated, too.

I was surprised the library
Mar 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Becoming Billie Holiday is an interesting way to pull together Eleanora Fagan's life, from her rough childhood to the famous artist she becomes. Carole Boston Weatherford created these poems based on the events of Billie's life.

The developmental areas that are addressed consist of growing up during the depression, rape, poverty, prostitution, growing up without a father, as well as various other struggles along her way to fame. Teens will definitely be able to relate to many of these issues. I
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Becoming Billie Holiday is a unique biography of iconic jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday. This is not your typical non-fiction book. This text tells Holiday’s story through beautiful narrative poetry and stunning, colorful illustrations. Though this looks like a picture book for younger students, the content is geared toward older students creating a nice balance to the run-of-the-mill trade books used to teach history. Reluctant readers will be drawn to the illustrations, and the poetic for ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, poetry
Becoming Billie Holiday is a verse novel telling the story of Billie Holiday's early life, leading up to her performance of "Strange Fruit" at the Café Society. The book includes some 100 free-verse poems, each bearing the name of one of Holiday's songs (because as quoted in the epigraph, "she didn't sing anything unless she had lived it"), and some absolutely breathtaking artwork by Floyd Cooper.

I don't know how I feel, on a personal level, about verse novels. The problem I have with the ones I
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
This collection is definitely a bit uneven. Not all poems are superb but there are enough with poetic success to pull me through, with interest and enjoyment. Unfortunately, nice lines like this is not commonplace for this title: p. 49 a suitcase full of hard luck

There are, in my view, too many ready-made phrases (cliches) that show a certain amount of laziness on the poet's part like "I was the cat's meow." (p. 41 bottom of page) or "hot enough to fry an egg" (p.45).

I did feel that I got to kn
Jan 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, teen
I have mixed feelings about this book. Billie Holiday is one of my favorite singers, her voice moves me, so maybe I had unrealistic expectations for this book. Or maybe because this is a teen book, the author didn't really want to delve into the darkness that was in her life. There is absolutely no mention of herion addiction in the poems whatsoever. In the author's note at the end, Weatherford mentions it, and says that she wanted to tell a story about Billie before drugs darkened her life. Hmm ...more
This book was an interesting dip into the life of Billie Holiday, but probably not the best book for readers, especially the age group at which it is directed, who do not have much of a background about jazz and blues. The poems didn't floor me, but there were some beautiful ones, and it was a creative and imaginative touch on Weatherford's part that each poem was the title of one of Holiday's songs, which carried on the theme that begins the book in the form of Tony Bennett's quote that Holiday ...more
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Carole Boston Weatherford is a children's book author and poet who "mines the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles." A number of Weatherford's books tell the stories of African-American historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, and Billie Holiday. Other books recount historical events such as the Greensboro Sit-ins and the bombing of the Sixteenth Stree ...more

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